The Serenity Pilot Is Superior to Serenity the Movie Due to Its Ability to Portray Slices of Life
Sunday, July 1, 2007

1 July 2007

I am fine with the result of the recent BBC poll designating Serenity the best science fiction movie ever made. It goes without saying that Serenity’s ability to depict ordinary life in a future setting places it at a higher level that George Lucas’ Star Wars series, which must rely on such devices as “the Force” in order to draw us into his mythical imagined world.

However, on careful consideration, I thought it worth mentioning that the pilot episode for the Firefly television series, also entitle “Serenity,” is in fact superior to Serenity the movie, and thus, in my opinion, the best piece of dramatized science fiction so far created.

I wish only to comment briefly at this time on the distinction between the two eponymous works.

Serenity the pilot portrays numerous slices of life in the daily experiences of the crew of the space-faring vessel of the same name. There are hints at bigger issues and grander schemes operating in the background, but the pilot episode is mostly about what it might be like to live on a spaceship and to survive at the edges of the human galactic diaspora 500 years in the future.

Serenity the movie focuses on the grand conflict between the totalitarian “Alliance” and a few free people now scattered throughout our corner of the galaxy. There is relentless pursuit by a genocidal Alliance antagonist, with heavy and continuing casualties resulting from the ruthlessness of the Alliance, and an ultimate discovery of the Alliance’s deepest secret following a brutal battle with the dreaded and self-deforming Reavers in the former heart of human interplanetary civilization.

In the pilot episode, we witness a space salvage operation, double and triple-crossing transactions concerning the salvage from this operation, the taking on of the passengers who ultimately form the heart of Firefly’s cast, early hints as to the mysterious status of River Tam, an encounter with an Alliance undercover agent, a first encounter with the brutal Reavers, and powerful character development through illustration of the characters’ responses to relentlessly trying and testing circumstances. As we come to know the characters and to witness how they live through both small and major events, we develop a bond with each of them.

In Serenity the movie, there are continued hints at daily life, but the focus is more at the level of the grand conflict with the Alliance. It is an engaging dramatic device, but to my taste, the slices of life in the pilot are of greater interest than the grand conflict portrayed in the movie.

I love both Serenity the movie and Serenity the pilot, don't get me wrong, but after some rewatching, I feels confident in suggesting that the pilot stands at a somewhat higher level of accomplishment than the (higher budget) movie.

I have commented previously that the supreme accomplishment of Robert Heinlein’s science fiction writing (never yet satisfactorily transferred to the screen), is in Heinlein's ability to draw us into daily life in an imagined future.

Credit Joss Whedon for his work on both “Serenity” episodes and the Firefly series. Mr. Whedon is in my view the first to accomplish on film what Heinlein achieved in literature, and this is a noteworthy development.


Sunday, July 8, 2007 4:23 AM


Your comment helps me clarify the idea. Basically, the strength of the Firefly series is that it doesn't need the big special effects - and I think Star Wars did, for example. The big effects are fun, but they are really secondary to the story, which is about character development against the background of a world changed by the passage of time and the evolution of human history and technology. Really, even the Alliance vs. Browncoats idea is secondary. Joss is making us think about what life could be like if we have to abandon our mother planet, but have the vitality to start all over again perhaps dozens or hundreds of times on that many planets and moons in some corner of the galaxy somewhere (never really specified). Again, the pilot is more about the answer to this question than is the movie, which is taken up with bigger ideas. The big ideas are interesting, but the portrayals of the texture of life in the pilot are more interesting still.

Saturday, July 7, 2007 7:17 PM


Really says something when a 2 hour TV episode (2-parter, natch) beats out it's movie counterpart that runs for roughly the same length of time. Though the movie's story did benefit from the larger operating budget for doing stuff like the Hover Mule chase and flight through the Alliance-Reaver battle;)


Monday, July 2, 2007 6:09 AM


Here here!!!


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